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Broken Harmonies That Lurk in the Shadows

Annuals' "Brother" toggles between blissful quiet and bashing noise.
Annuals' "Brother" toggles between blissful quiet and bashing noise.

The first track on Annuals' debut, Be He Me, begins with a faint din of crickets chirping, as it instantly conjures nostalgic images of blissful summer nights. Singer Adam Baker's hushed voice and muted acoustic guitar both help to maintain the song's back-to-nature vibe — in the process recalling M. Ward — but soon enough, the North Carolina band's pastoral mood gives way to surreal instrumentation and broken harmonies that creep in from the shadows.

With a yelp, Baker and company shift the song to an emotional waltz: As the group builds momentum, it releases a wall of contorted guitars, off-kilter string passages and simmering synth swells driven by thunderous toms. Baker's voice cracks as he wails, "Now I've grown bold and lonely / I should have stayed with dear brother at home / But we grew up old."

In the final stretches, the song crumbles into darkness again, with lingering traces of melody echoing like AM radio static on the front porch. Bringing to mind The Arcade Fire at times, Annuals' members don't rewrite the book on earnest indie-rock, but their songs are both sturdy and ambitious — and on the first try, too.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Mike Katzif